Breathe New Life into Your Email Marketing Campaigns

When it comes to digital marketing for your dealership, there’s no shortage of amazing tools and technology that you can employ to drive traffic, leads and sales. While the latest whizbang tech — such as our digital retailing solution, Online Shopper™ — tends to garner all the headlines, it’s important to remember that there’s a technology out there that’s older than the Internet itself, but is still one of the most effective ways to market your dealership.

Yup, that’s right. I’m talking about good ol’ fashioned email!

Because email has been a big part of our lives for over 20 years now, it’s easy to take it for granted or even consider it  an “old” or  “outdated” communications platform.

The reality is though, that even with all the messaging platforms that we use on a daily basis, over 50% of Americans are still checking their personal email upwards of 10 times per day¹, which is right up there in terms of usage with the behemoth social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

But make no mistake, just because people are still highly engaged with their email (especially on mobile) it’s becoming more difficult to capture your customer’s attention in their inbox so that they’ll actually open and read your message.



As a car dealer, you probably have a sizeable email list that you routinely “blast” emails to a few times a month from your CRM. We’ve written in the past why your CRM isn’t the best platform for email marketing, so I won’t rehash all the details here. But I will say that just because you have a list of 50,000 opted-in email addresses, that doesn’t mean you should be blasting the same email to your entire database over and over again.

Look, as a dealer, I know it’s hard to let go of any lead. But holding on to these email addresses and bombarding them month after month with messages that aren’t relevant to them can be detrimental to your sender reputation.

Sender Reputation: Much like you would check a customer’s credit as a part of the car buying process, email providers check a sender’s reputation prior to deciding if an email should be delivered to the recipient’s inbox. If your reputation is less than stellar, your emails are more likely to be unceremoniously dumped in the spam folder, never to be read.

There are quite a few factors that email providers take into account in determining your reputation as a sender, but spam complaints and user interaction (or lack thereof) on the emails you’ve sent both play a role.

What that means is that the more inactive or unresponsive people you send emails to, there’s a greater potential for your reputation as a sender to take a hit. A subpar reputation can increase the likelihood that your overall deliverability will be impacted to a point where your emails may go directly to the spam folder of even your active recipients…you know…the ones who would actually take an action on your email if they could only see it.

So while it may seem counterintuitive to reduce the size of your email list, it will lead to a healthier list overall which in turn will actually improve your deliverability, open rates, and conversions!



We realize that suggesting it’s necessary to change to the way you’ve been emailing your customers for years (if not decades), may not be the easiest pill to swallow. So in an effort to put you at ease, and show you that there is indeed a better way, we recently conducted a case study with a handful of clients to show you the results. Let’s take a look…


Autobarn Volkswagen

Email Marketing Case Study Results

Segmenting Autobarn Volkswagen’s email list into active and inactive customers produced outstanding results!

Our friends at Autobarn Volkswagen were experiencing open rates between 6%-7% at two of their locations, which is about half of the industry average of 13%². To breathe new life into their email efforts, we segmented their list in to two groups — active (those who had opened an email during the past 12 months) and inactive (those who had not opened an email in the past 12 months).

To the active group, we sent an email containing lease and finance offers for the the Volkswagen Tiguan and Volkswagen Atlas. By focusing solely on Autobarn’s most active email customers, we saw their open rate jump all the way up to 32%, which is over 2x the industry average!

Now make no mistake, we didn’t just ignore the inactive list, we simply sent them a very specific message designed to re-engage them. Instead of vehicle offers, we sent them an email literally saying that “We Miss You” (awww) and included a special Buy 3 Tires, Get 1 Free offer. Short, sweet, and to the point.

We were excited to see that 7.3% — or 6,829 — of these recipients, the ones who hadn’t opened an email from the dealership in over a year, opened this one. The benefit of this goes beyond the fact that we were able to successfully deliver an offer to these customers. It also means that now we’re able to move these folks over to the active list, giving Autobarn a larger set of customers to send relevant and targeted emails to.

When combining the metrics from both email campaigns, Autobarn Volkswagen saw a 150% increase in email conversions compared to the previous month.


But Wait, There’s More!

With any kind of case study, you have to look at more than just one example to reinforce your proposed strategy. So to that end we also executed the same campaigns as we did above – sending two separate email campaigns to active and inactive customers — for River View Ford, Sterling Acura of Austin, and Patty Peck Honda.

For River View Ford, we won back 9% (750) of the customers who hadn’t opened an email from them in over a year, and their active list achieved an all-time high open rate of 43%!

Sterling Acura of Austin saw their website sessions from email increase by 67%, which accounted for a 100% increase in conversions from email campaigns compared to the previous month. We have our segmented campaigns to thank for this, as their open rate climbed from 8% to 24% and we were able to move 5% (337) of the recipients from the inactive list to the active list.

Lastly, Patty Peck Honda’s email open rate went from 5% to 26% after segmenting active and inactive customers. The re-engagement campaign was able to win back 2,308 — or 4% — of recipients who hadn’t opened an email from the dealer in over a year. Another huge win!



When it comes to email marketing, it really boils down to sending the right message to the right person at the right time. I know it can be tempting to send the same email to every single address in your database based on the assumption that more = better. But that’s just not the case. When you blast your email list with the same message, you’re inevitably hurting your reputation as a sender, and missing out on the chance to deliver a different, more relevant message to your inactive customers which could encourage them to take action.

When it comes to segmentation, dividing your lists into active and inactive is really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. By setting up advanced segments, you can actually organize your lists based on a customer’s current status (website lead, unsold prospect, sold customer, service customer, etc.) and create specific automated drip campaigns tailored to meet their specific needs.

That’s what we do at Dealer Inspire. We create better email experiences for your recipients, custom coded to look beautiful on any device and are designed around your brand. We take the guesswork out of campaign management, and execute an email marketing strategy to maximize deliverability.


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Shannon Goins
Shannon has worn a variety of hats at DI since 2015. Though she got her start in design and email development, she slowly realized her true passion was in email marketing. Creating meaningful email marketing strategies and helping her clients improve engagement is her favorite thing to do. Outside of the email game, she loves to spontaneously bike ride ridiculous distances, travel with her family, and eat chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

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